MANILA — Malacañang will respect the decision of Taiwan should it decide to take back the visa-free privilege of Filipinos after the Philippines included Chinese Taipei in its temporary travel ban to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“Each country has the right to react on any act perceived or taken by them as against its own interest. What can we do about it?” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing on Thursday.
On Monday, the Department of Health (DOH) clarified that the temporary travel ban to all foreign nationals was extended to Taiwan besides China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macao.
Panelo said he understood the sentiment of Taiwan, which has insisted that it is a sovereign and independent state from China.
However, he explained that the Philippines also has its own interests to protect which is foremost the health and safety of its citizens which Taiwanese officials should understand as well.
“Sabi ni Presidente kagabi (The President said last night), ‘my primary concern is the health, the safety of our countrymen. Until the danger persists, we have to do what is necessary to secure their safety’,” Panelo said.
He also assured that Angelito Banayo, chair of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei, is working to reduce the negative impact that may arise should Taiwan impose “reactive measures” in retaliation of the temporary travel ban.
Banayo earlier said that Taiwan thinks that the Philippines’ reason for imposing the ban is political rather than being health-related.
In an interview over DZBB, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo denied that Duterte is treating the Covid-19 as a political issue instead of health-related.
“Hindi totoo iyon dahil hindi naman tayo gumagalaw nang ganoon, palaging health issue tayo (That’s not true because we don’t work that way. It’s always a health issue for us),” Panelo said.
The Taiwanese government gave Filipinos a 14-day visa-free privilege in 2017 and has been extended until July 31, 2020 “a display of Taiwan’s amity” with the Philippines.
Nothing to do with One-China policy
Despite earlier saying that the inclusion of Taiwan in the temporary travel ban was made on the basis of the One-China policy that recognizes Taiwan as part of China, Panelo clarified that Duterte thought otherwise.
“Tinanong ko din siya, sabi niya (I asked him, he said) ‘No, nothing to do with it’,” Panelo said.
He insisted that the temporary travel ban being extended to Taiwan was primarily a matter of health precaution.
“We’re trying to secure the safety of our countrymen so as not to spread the disease and inflict them,” he added.
Meanwhile, he said the government will be assessing whether other countries with confirmed cases of Covid-19 may also be included in the temporary travel ban.
“Darating siguro tayo dun sa travel ban na ‘yun. Lahat ‘yan pinag-aaralan (Perhaps we will come to a point when there will be a travel ban in other countries. It will all be studied),” he said.
There are about 120,000 documented and 20,000 undocumented Filipino workers in Taiwan, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
There are a total of 18 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Taiwan. Azer Parrocha / PNA – northboundasia.com